January 13, 2017
Real life unfolds in Paterson.
From his beginnings on Broadway and HBO’s “Girls” to an ever diversifying portfolio of films and characters, including, just in the past year or so, starring roles in the newly revamped “Star Wars” franchise, Scorsese's religious epic “Silence”, and most recently Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson”, Adam Driver has come a long way and it doesn’t seem as if he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Paterson features Driver as a bus driver named Paterson living and working in Paterson, New Jersey (if that sentence slightly irritates you so will this entire movie). Opening on Monday morning, the film follows Paterson through a seemingly mundane work week in which he wakes up at about the same time every morning (without the help of an alarm clock), walks to the bus depot, engages in small and comical chit chat with his coworker and proceeds to begin his work day, driving the bus and listening to the everyday conversations of his passengers: random citizens of Paterson discussing people and events in or related to the city of Paterson.

On his breaks, during his spare time, and while sitting at the Great Falls, Paterson writes his poetry in his secret notebook. After work he returns home to his eccentric, whimsical, and beautiful wife Laura (played to perfecton by Golshifteh Farahani) whose interests and passions that (though we only get to see one week) appear to be weekly indulgences for Paterson. They have no children besides Marvin, their dog and Paterson’s main antagonist, whom he walks every evening on his way to the same local bar where he again sits in observation of the people of Paterson and engages in his own conversations on them with his (tropey) comical bartender friend Doc before returning home once again to Laura.

Laura is an interesting character in her own right, in some ways you could call her a typical housewife, reminiscent of a bygone era (or at least a fictionalized version of that era). She kisses her husband everyday before he leaves for work, packs his lunch with photos and reminders of her, decorates the house and fashions her clothes all day, has dinner ready for him when he gets home and bakes cupcakes- in which she takes great pride- for the community farmers’ markets. As far as we see she has no job of her own, no social life outside of her farmers’ market (and a seemingly rare occasional movie outing with her husband), and relies on him to fund her fancies. But in personality, and those fancies, she is far from the modern idea of typical or housewife. She sleeps late and shares her whimsical dreams with her husband almost everyday. The lunches she packs him are filled with reminders of her artistic whimsy, as are the way she decorates and remakes the house, finding interesting ways to design and make new upholstery, kitchenware, and outfits everyday. She doesn’t seem to be the best cook but experiments with interesting combinations. And she dreams of both owning her own successful bakery in Paterson and becoming a famous country singer. A simple yet complex person and artist- much like her husband- she pushes Paterson to publish and share his poetry while he, seemingly private in both his art and nature continues to respond that he’s not a poet when asked by those he meets; he seems more comfortable appearing as just the “bus driver who loves poetry.”

But interspersed throughout his rides the audience gets a glimpse of the artist in process. We hear Paterson’s considering voice as words start being scrawled across the screen. Both the audio and visual pieces of his poetry seem to come out slow and strained at first, but instead reveal themselves to be contemplative as we realize that we’re following a stream of consciousness that is happening and being inspired by that exact moment. We are simultaneously seeing the inspiration while hearing and watching the words appear in the moment of creation. And what seems to start of straightforward, simple, and mundane- like the beginnings of a poem about a particular brand of matches- spins off into the metaphorically beautiful and complex. This can be said for the poetry, the person, and the film of Paterson. You watch the film and follow the character for a time thinking you’re waiting for something to happen, sitting through the repetition and simplicity of his everyday life with a brief upsetting and yet comical hiccup followed by the (again tropey) inspiring (or re-inspiring) conversation with a stranger, after which everything seems to quickly go back to much the same with the start of a another week, only to realize in the end that that’s it. Some might leave the theater wondering what the point is, claiming nothing really happens. But the film isn’t just about what happens to the character, it’s about the experience the viewer has from it, much like poetry. The viewer is forced to become like the character, a silent observer finding the beauty in the simple and ordinary, inspiration in the mundane. For a moment you get a glimpse into the world of an artist. That is the point and poetry of “Paterson” and Driver and Jarmusch pull it off perfectly.

4 out of 5

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Liz Liz (Contributor) is an ardent cinephile from West Philadelphia. She enjoys all genres and generations of cinema and has a particular love for independent and foreign films